Sunday, June 17, 2018

Championing Our Gifted Students

Although this blog post is part of the celebration that is Gifted Awareness Week in Aotearoa New Zealand and our Gifted Blog Tour that is held each year I think every week is Gifted Awareness Week.

As teachers, we are always determined to celebrate our amazing students.  As the late Rita Pierson said, we ARE their champions and they need us now more than ever.   We get excited by their successes and achievements and this is so easy to do when they're in our area of focus during the week but how do we make sure that we do this when they're not - when, for example - they're part of a one-day gifted and talented school?  For these students, it can be even more important to provide that crucial link between the two learning environments - to celebrate their achievements and shout them from the rooftops.  Why?  Because relationships and connections are everything in learning and teaching.  Because it celebrates and normalises who they are - it makes it okay to be gifted and keeps us connected to them.  And it absolutely is okay to be gifted.  So many of our gifted students have to fight to be accepted when we should be celebrating that giftedness and as my colleague, Andrea Delaune writes in her blog post for Gifted Awareness Week - having a party for it!  This has really struck a chord with me.

So then, how do we change this thinking to make sure that the connections are strong and that our gifted students are truly valued? How do we create and change a culture to make it a collaborative one where learning is shared and celebrated between the two learning environments?  Where students don't become targets because they go to a different school one day a week? 

Like many things, it comes from the top down. The teacher sets the tone - be champions for our students.  It's not that hard and it's a whole lot of fun.

Back in 2011 I had quite a large group of gifted students attending a one-day school and wanted to find ways to connect, share, value and celebrate their learning so I talked to their teachers at their other school and also to the students themselves and we set up their blogs - all of my students had them in our home classroom and they also had them at their one-day school so they could share the learning from both environments.  The value of the feedback that was shared by the students, teachers and parents/whanau was powerful and had a huge impact on learning and confidence.

We also devised a plan where they could run workshops to share their learning across the school when they returned. This was voluntary initially but they were all very keen so we ran with it and it was very successful.  It didn't take a lot of time and it created exceptionally strong relationships in the classroom.  The learning from both directions was valued and celebrated, as were the students.

There are now so many different ways to connect and collaborate.  I've posted recently about one - using Hapara  and I've created a test Workspace in Hapara to try this out - you can take a look at it here and let me know what you think - is it something you think could be valuable for creating a better understanding and deeper, collaborative connections?  This one helps to connect the home school, the one-day school, students and their parents/whanau and caregivers.

Hapara - Workspace - Gifted and Talented Collaborations

Seesaw - student-driven digital portfolios and blogs are other ways that the learning can be continued along with workshops discussed above.  Talk to your students - they will have so many ideas for ways to share their learning with you. 

We've got to create better connections and be champions for these students in particular.  I will leave you with the fabulous Rita Pierson. I've shared this so many times, including with many students whose response was simply - "She gets us."

                                         Rita Pierson - Every Kid Needs A Champion

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